Any mention of “Tahiti” tends to have a calming effect, sparking visions of vacant beaches awash with turquoise waters.
Air Tahiti Nui is now trying to elevate those Tahitian-inspired dreams with new uniforms. Ten years after Balenciaga Uniformes created Polynesian styles for the airline’s flight crew, two Tahitian designers have been tapped to update the workwear. The previous supplier is not affiliated with the European design house by the same name, according to Vaihiria Kelley, Air Tahiti Nui’s director of marketing and sales for North America. “There was a little bit of confusion. It was Balenciaga, but it wasn’t the Balenciaga couture fashion house. The designer was called Balenciaga, but it was another European designer,” she said.
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Designer-airline alliances have increased in the past year or so with Tracy Reese, Brooks Brothers and Carhartt updating some for United employees. British Airways recruited Ozwald Boateng, Delta lined up Zac Posen and Turkish Airlines tapped Ettore Bilotta. But Air Tahiti was in search of homegrown talent.
After putting out a request for proposals locally, an Air Tahiti committee selected Steeve L’s designer Steeve Liu to do the men’s uniforms and Moya B’s Moerani Morgrin to handle the women’s. Regarding the decision to harvest Tahitian talent, the Los Angeles-based Kelley said, “The fashion industry in Tahiti has been evolving in the last few years. There has always been a lot of fashion, but similar to what you see here — there are a lot of designers starting their own brands. Tahiti Fashion Week has been going on for the last few years. Local fashion designers have really started to become prominent locally.
Unlike most air carriers, Air Tahiti’s in-flight crew change uniforms — once they are airborne to relay a more relaxed style — and then change back before landing into the first, more tailored uniform.
In total, 466 people are wearing the new uniforms — nearly 400 crew members and 67 ground staffers. Certain styles are inspired by the Tahitian culture such as the “Purotu,” a form-fitting dress that borrows from the name for “young lady.” The other option is a looser-fitting one that is a combination of the “Mama Ruau,” which means “old lady” and the “Pomare,” a reference to Tahitian royalty — Queen Pomare IV, who favored a high neckline. Crew members can choose whichever style they prefer.
The color combinations are also bolder than the previous offerings of red and white and yellow and white. “Now we have red and black, purple and blue, yellow and pink,” Kelley said. “It’s quite a change from what we had. With every uniform, it takes a little time to get used to. When everyone saw the new colors, they were quite taken aback from what they were used to. Now it seems that everyone, especially the crew, is really taking to it.”
“It’s a nice mixture so when they are on the ground walking through the airport, they look more formal with their traditional suits. Then in-flight, it’s more relaxed and traditional Tahitian wear,” Kelley said. “It’s been like that since the very beginning of the airline since our very first flight [in 1996.] Passengers seem to be really surprised. The flight takes off and the flight attendants change. It’s always a nice surprise.”